The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

flour fineness

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heyitsmebobbyd's picture
heyitsmebobbyd

flour fineness

I recently produced a stone flour mill.  can someone tell me, does finer flour produce lighter loafs, how fine is too fine?

Dan001's picture
Dan001

What flour mill did you buy? 

What grain are you milling? 

Generally Yes a finer flour will produce a lighter loaf but their is also the possibilty to use technique such as a poolish with wheat or rye and get a light loaf.

Dan

 

 

Steve Unifine Flour's picture
Steve Unifine Flour

Bobby;

Flour particle size is  just one of the elements that impacts "lighter" when it comes to baking. 

The whole reason the "roller mill" system was invented in the late 1800's was to extract all the bran and the germ elements.   These were considered objectionable because the bran particles punctured the bubbles in the rising dough.  It wasn't long before it was discovered that there was a very significant impact on the health of consumers and the rest, as they say, is history. I mention this issue because home stone milling is likely going to give you a large flour particles and you'll have that :"puncture" problem with the dough bubbles. 

I was visiting with Keith Giusto just yesterday on this general topic.  He has a fabulous baking supply outlet in Northern California and operates Central Milling.  We were visiting about an extraction flour that Europeans call "T-85" that he mills and offers.  It extracts about half the bran in the milling process.  You not only don't have to deal with the larger bran particles, but you're dealing with a reduced percentage of those heavier elements, while retaining the superior sensory experience that comes with retaining the bran and the germ elements.  On the latter issue, a scientific study done at Washington State University for the white flour industry that was interested in adding fiber back into white flour discovered that, irrespective of the particle size, adding back half the bran was the "sweet spot" and simply adding more fiber beyond that caused internal functionality challenges while baking.  So...it's not all about particle size either and it doesn't mean you can't overcome these issues, that's what makes artisan baking so rewarding...and challenging!

Another issue that impacts lightness is the natural occurring element glutathione.  There is research that supports that this element does break down the gluten strands in the rising dough, but it doesn't do it's mischief when the bran and germ elements have been extracted.  So if you are baking with these elements still in the flour, there are those who recommend adding 250 mg of vitamin C per loaf.  The suggestion is that this neutralizes the glutathione.  In addition to your rising times and other variables, there is another one for you to play with.

So if you are home stone milling, you'll be wise to strive to get that flour as fine as possible. 

Hope this helps.  Enjoy the journey!

Steve Unifine Flour

 

BBQinMaineiac's picture
BBQinMaineiac

I can't directly answer your question, but I use a burr mill and grind my whole grain 3x. I have no problems with the bran destroying the gluten network (I did have problems with a 1x grind). I also add ascorbic acid (Vit' C). Once I did both of those things, the fine grinding and the addition of Vit' C, all of my gluten problems disappeared. I also add lecithin, but for other reasons.

Can your stone mill grind flour to an ultra fine consistency? I have heard of some that can only grind once to a certain consistency and that's it. Running the first grind through again does something negative to the stone. I don't need an answer, it's just something for you to find out about your mill.

cjjjdeck's picture
cjjjdeck

Lighter crumb loaves from whole grain flour is an adventure in experimentation.  One I've been on for a few of years now.  The information that really changed the outcome of many of my whole grain loaves was in the book "Whole Grain Breads" by Peter Reinhart (I highly recommend this book if baking with whole grains are important to you).  He uses a pre-fermentation process that softens the bran. to keep the full nutritional value of whole grain flour and have less negative effect on gluten development, and starts valuable chemical processes that aid in achieving the lighter crumb and deeper flavor profile outcome of the loaves.  The result for me has been phenomenal  flavor profiles and much better crumb.  

Other ingredients can also aid in the lighter crumb quest.  Besides the important benefit of the ascorbic acid addition that Steve mentions, I've had great luck also using diastatic malt powder/Barley malt powder which improves yeast/enzyme action and adds to the flavor profile (4 g per loaf).  Vital wheat gluten helps whole grains that have lower gluten content (I use it in my rye breads).   Lecithin, as BBQ, mentions aids in preserving the shelf life in your bread by slowing down the drying out of baked goods over time.  I've also read some people feel using lecithin improves the crumb and gives the bread a moister feel as well.  I'm trying this ingredient next in my whole grain quest.

So finer milled flour is the first important step, but technique and the addition of other ingredients are also important contributors in trying to achieve a lighter crumb without sacrificing the full nutritional value of baking with whole grains. 

Welcome to the milling whole grains club!

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Steve,  I have been grinding at home for a year or two. Your post was the most reasoned explanation of why to add vitamin C,  so I did it today for the first time using Hamelman's baguette with 33 % poolish.  I made two identical loaves, with vitamin C added to the final loaf of one of the two.  Over the 3 hour bulk fermentation, I did not see much difference, and didn't see a difference in the final proof. However there was a better oven spring with the vitamin C loaf and it came out taller . Thanks for the post.